US & Canada

Could Congress act on immigration reform?

  • 29 January 2013
  • From the section US & Canada
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Lionel Sosa
Ad man Lionel Sosa says Republicans must seize the immigration issue

"It's a lovely, lovely shot but…" Lionel Sosa leans forward and stares thoughtfully at the big screen and the picture of a young couple kissing.

He asks the editor: "What's the script saying?"

"Our shared future."

The shots roll on through tired, huddled masses to the Statue of Liberty, former President Ronald Reagan, the Stars and Stripes.

They are cutting a commercial in San Antonio, Texas, which should be on TV screens by the end of the week.

'Open the doors'

Financed by a loose grouping of Republicans, this campaign is designed to convince conservatives that the time has come to get serious about immigration reform.

Some Republicans think time is running out - they have one last chance to woo Hispanic voters.

If they miss this opportunity they may never win over a group who may hold the key to winning future elections.

Lionel Sosa is an ad man, a Republican and a Latino, who was involved in the presidential campaigns for Ronald Reagan and both George HW and George W Bush.

He says that what happened last year must not be repeated.

"Republicans did horribly with Latinos in the last election, as bad as we have ever done, and there are reasons for it. Latinos saw Republicans as rich, Anglo, isolated and judgmental."

He says if a candidate is seen as anti-immigrant it matters to Latinos who are American citizens, who then perceive him as unfriendly and intolerant.

Latino support was certainly pretty important to President Barack Obama, and the Democrats are determined to keep it.

The president is announcing his plans for immigration reform in the state of Nevada later on Tuesday.

A bipartisan group of senators has just nipped in ahead of him with their own ideas.

The crux of the issue is what to do about the 11 million or so illegal immigrants in the US, many of whom are from Mexico.

In the last election many Republicans scoffed at the idea of giving them amnesty, saying that would reward criminal behaviour.

The senators' proposals would toughen border controls and then offer illegal immigrants a path to a green card, after paying a fine and back taxes.

Mr Sosa says something like this is vital.

"This is a very divisive issue, a very difficult issue, but we Republicans know this - we do not want it on the table in 2016 so we better solve it in a year or so.

"Of course, there are a lot of Republicans who are not going to like the new bill, but we don't want to be viewed as intolerant and we don't want to be viewed as nasty.

"We want to be viewed as people who welcome people, who open the doors and say: 'You are part of what makes this country great'."

President Obama knows this is an issue that could split Republicans - and they may be unwilling to agree to any package with his name on it, but it is one area where it is just possible Congress may, eventually, act.

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